I am mother, hear me roar!

It’s heart breaking to hear that your children are bullied. When I heard about it (the kids hadn’t told me themselves) 8 weeks ago, I was appalled. Especially because some 10 and 11-year olds bullied my 10 and my 6-year old. And they did it fanatically.

I immediately turned to school, expecting they would not accept such behaviour. But every teacher I turned to, said they didn’t know anything about it. And when I asked them if they could enquire after it, they all turned me down. One said she worked too few days to help solve the problem. Another said the major thing happened on the day he didn’t work, so he didn’t know about it and didn’t once intend to go after it. And a third said he thought it was wise to tackle the problem as soon as possible, but didn’t do anything about it.

So, as I scanned for new possibilities to deal with the bullying, the bullying went on. Eventually I found a teacher who had been present at the time a serious incident occurred. And she told me that my children were bullied enormously. Especially the little one. By those big guys! For weeks now! Why hadn’t anyone informed me? With her and my oldest daughter I got out the full story and went back to school. 3,5 weeks after I’d first heard about it, the bullying was stopped. It turned out those bullies had already bullied an 8-year old boy into a serious depression. A boy who had come from another school because he had been bullied at his previous school. He had actually told my oldest that he didn’t want to live anymore. And he too was bullied for about 2 months without the school noticing. Only when his parents threatened to take him to another school, did our school respond.

The bullying stopped.

I thought.

Then my youngest daughter came home with big bruises. With lunchboxes still filled for the greater part. Stomach ache, she said. And she didn’t want to stay over at school for lunch anymore. But we live a pretty long way from school, so it’s hardly possible for me to go pick her up, eat and take her back in time. And since she didn’t respond to my questions about what was the matter, I thought she was having a difficult phase or something. The bruises, she said, were from falling and bumping into things.

And then nightmares came.

And then imaginary games came in which all of her friends from her old school called her to break up with her because they were angry that she’d moved so far away. And her new friends from this school called to say they broke up with her because she was stupid and because she would never belong to their group. These games went on the full fall break. And I was alarmed.

Because of the lame way the school had dealt with the first bullying affair and because of numerous other things that I don’t like about this school, we were already considering taking our children out of there. And, in the last weekend of the fall break I asked my daughter if she’d like to go to a new school. And she said “yes”. I was totally amazed, because why does a child prefer insecurity over a situation they already know? And we talked some more. And then I heard that the 8-year old boy who’d been bullied into a depression was now bullying and abusing my 6-year old. For weeks!

It cut through me like a knife. Suddenly everything made sense! The bruises, the full lunch boxes. Isis told me Nevynn’s often kicked full in the stomach, with full force. I bet that makes a girl sick and gives her a belly ache! And sometimes a few other boys would hold her so the big bully could hit her really hard!

I took Nevynn aside and tried to talk to her. And the story came out, in small portions. The three other guys had stopped and the new boy had taken over. And this time violence was involved. She was very, very scared.

How could this happen at a school that should be alert after the former bullying incident?

Well, I’ll spare you the long story and details, but the past week Isis’ teacher came to ask me if I was taking the children away from school. Isis had said something about it in class. I confirmed that we were indeed considering it seriously. And then he was suddenly willing to offer Isis what we had been promised in the first place: a more differentiating teaching programme, fit to her needs. And he asked if there was anything else that was the problem. But I told him I was going to discuss the other problems with the people it concerned.

And I did. I had some hard talks at school. Being a teacher myself I can pinpoint very well where things go wrong at this school. And believe me, no school is perfect. That’s true. But this school is bad. Teachers don’t take responsibility, with a few exceptions they’re not willing to help out and none of them seem to have the drive to say: Hey, this is my school and I won’t accept such behaviour here. Let’s make a plan to stop it and carry it out. They have a plan. On paper. But it doesn’t work. Because they don’t respond well enough to occurring incidents. They don’t respond at all, in fact.

So, I had a talk with the principal. And she was appalled at hearing our experiences with her school. I talked with Nevynn’s teacher and told him where he’d let Nevynn and us down and in fact helped deteriorate the problem. Bullying is awful, but being ignored when you’re calling out for help, ruins your sense of safety. Bullying happens everywhere. But it’s how a school deals with it that makes the difference.

Anyway, I didn’t settle for a talk to just ventilate my complaints. I demanded to make appointments about clear steps the teacher would take to help Nevynn feel safer in school (of course, besides stopping the bullying and physical abuse). I was strong like a lion, so I came across, all right. After the talk, the teacher had promised to do three important things for Nevynn. Perhaps there was hope.

Well, the next day would be THE day. We’d informed Nevynn of what was coming and that her teacher was going to help her from now on. She went to school so nervous that my husband decided to take a first step and do one of those important things for Nevynn himself. He told the teacher about it and he’d do the rest.

But when I came to pick up Nevynn in the afternoon, it turned out he hadn’t done what he’d promised. I was raging mad. Stayed calm and told him he’d sure have time to make up for it and do it NOW! I urged Nevynn to go inside with him and there they went.

But seriously, how can I have faith that the problem will be dealt with when the first and most important steps are neglected?

And then yesterday another mother approached me. If I knew anything about bullying? Turns out there’s a lot more going on at that school that I didn’t know of. That the children don’t tell me. And I basically lost all faith in that school.

So, after an emotional and difficult week in which I fought like a tiger, I am now getting myself ready to find my girls a new school. Keeping well in mind that no school is perfect. But I have very serious concerns for my children’s emotional and physical safety. It shouldn’t be that way. And are you surprised when I tell you that even though I’ve reported the bullying to the principal on Tuesday, it still went on the rest of the week? That there was still no intervention? The difference was, that we’re so desperate for Nevynn’s safety that we’ve now given Isis permission to take down the bully. She’s strong and she’s stood up for other children loads of times. I know, it’s not her responsibility, and it shouldn’t be like that. But until school intervenes, I don’t know what else to do.

…will be continued.

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